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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The English Teaching Sins Top 10 List!

The following list has been put together to help new English teachers (and a few old ones too) understand the most common sins commited in the classroom.

I should stress that this list is completely personal and as such has no particular authority but in my experience these are some of the main dangers to look out for.

If you are a trainee doing a reasonably decent TEFL Certificate or Diploma course then you will have a far better chance of getting good grades if you take these points very seriously indeed. TEFL teacher trainers understand that it takes time to get the hang of things, and that the very reason we exist is that trainees can experiment and make mistakes in a warm, caring and forgiving environment.

Up to a point.

And then, after a while, if you are still spending the first 40 minutes of a one-hour lesson giving another lecture on another of your pet topics our heads start exploding and we start seeing DIRT (Definitely Isn't Really Teaching)!!!

The English Teaching Sins Top 10 List!

1) You speak much more than your students because what you've got to say is more interesting anyway and you make far fewer painful mistakes.

2) You tell the students everything so they don't feel embarrassed when they don't know the answers to your incomprehensible questions.

3) You speak to them as you would a native speaker (or a little faster to push them ;-) because 'authentic input' is the way to go.

4) You follow a course book faithfully because it was written by experts, after all, and has some really nice exercises to photocopy, whilst also cutting down on preparation time.

5) You don't bother planning your lessons because you are the 'spontaneous type' who can wing it (have been doing so for years) and like the element of surprise this brings to the classroom.

6) You focus specifically on the most extroverted, confident students because those who make an effort to contribute deserve most of your attention.

7) You correct student mistakes constantly. It's what they expect, it's what they pay for, and it helps them learn faster.

8) You don't 'get personal' with your students. Your life has nothing to do with their English skills and their private lives are of even less relevance or interest to you. Good solid grammar lessons are what they need and appreciate the most.

9) You use humour as a powerful correctional tool. Subtle humiliation of the weaker students can encourage them to work harder so as to avoid the sting of your razor-sharp wit in the future.

10) You aim for accuracy as the ultimate goal of your lessons above all else. The need to eliminate mistakes is vital and we shouldn't let our students get away with poor grammar or shoddy vocabulary when they speak.

So your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to offer some antidotes to this tale of gloom and doom: let's hear lots of things a great humanistic and communicative teacher should do to make their lessons a great place for their students to be.

Please send in your Top Three Teaching Tips which you think will help make our lessons great to the Comments Section below. We look forward to reading you.
Sab Will is Course Director at TEFL Paris, a TEFL Certificate Teacher Training Centre


Brianna said...

1. You make the class fun and entertaining, so the students come to class enthusiastic and better prepared to learn.

2. You include the students in everything you can. It is their lesson to learn English, so the more they can practice the better.

3. You are prepared, but also flexible. It is the teacher's responsibility to keep the class on track, though the teacher should also be able to adapt the the student's needs should they deviate from the original lesson plan.

Paris Set Me Free said...

I think those are all great Brianna! I must admit I'm a fan of the first one - if the teacher seems to be having fun it's much easier for the students to do so too, and hopefully they will learn more too than if they're bored or just not particularly interested.

Morna said...

1. Students should be given every possible opportunity to speak/write in class.

2. The lesson should use a variety of the following communication modes: reading, writing, speaking and listening. There should be particular emphasis on the communicative aspects, i.e. speaking and listening.

3. The lesson should include activities which appeal to a range of learners. For example, it might be nice to include images for visual learners, as well as inviting students to write on the board to stimulate kinaesthetic learners.

andrew said...

1. It is better to be over prepared for a lesson than to be underprepared. If you know what you want to talk about you can follow your plans as loosely or as closely as you want dependent upon how the lesson is going, but if you don't know what's meant to be happening next you can find yourself in trouble.

2. Work hard on simplifying your language and finding ways of communicating ideas in as few words as possible. Students' inability to understand a teacher is not always caused by how complicated the words we use are, but how complicated the structure of the sentence we eventually produce is can be an issue too. Sometimes our attempts to simplify one aspect of our language use can result in another aspect becoming more complicated.

3. When using humour, make yourself the butt of the joke regularly. Humour, used correctly will make the lesson more fun for everyone involved, but if it is directed too often at a member of the class it can come across as mean spirited, or discourage a student from becoming involved. Making jokes about yourself has the additional benefit of letting your students know a little bit more about you and feeling like there is more of a human bond rather than a strictly functional teacher -> student relationship.

Larry said...

1) Positive reinforcement works wonders with everybody, whether it's kids, students, employees or whatever. In any situation, recognizing the accomplishments of the students (rather than focusing on errors) will pay off in the long run.

2) Sincerity counts. I think it's important to be enthusiastic and even over-emotive, but I also think that if you try too hard in a false way it will show. You have to figure out how to really enjoy what you're doing and then do it - not to try to fake it. (Now, if Sab or Maya was faking it at any point so far in our courses, you do a damn good job of hiding it!!!)

3) I think that by focusing gently on a weaker student, the teacher can not only help bring that student out of his/her shell, but that all of the other students will benefit as well. Many times students are afraid to ask the questions that they are thinking about for fear of seeming stupid or for fear of being suspected of not having paid attention in class. The weaker student can ask questions with impunity and thus if the teacher can get that student to pose the questions, there is a good chance that they will be the same kinds of questions that everyone would have asked, and that their answers will serve to reinforce the knowledge that the stronger students have while helping the weaker students achieve the basics. (That is a long sentence, but I think it makes sense.)

alban said...

1- The atmosphere is really important, so if it's fun and enjoyable, it will make it easier for the students to remember and wanting more.

2- A good preparation is a prerogative. Better you know your subject, easier it is to change it on the way and take an other direction if needed.

3- A good mixture of speaking, reading, listening and writing will make the lesson more balanced. The more the students are involved in the teaching, the better.

Nicko the goldfish said...

Some tips, different to previous posts.

1. Establish a friendly rapport quickly. First impressions can last a long time, so setting off on the right foot is important.
2. Be dynamic in both voice and body (miming etc). Movement is interesting, even when it isn’t fully required.
3. Compliment and reassure. What they’re doing is difficult, even if to us they’re saying the most basic of things. They should be commended for just walking through the door. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel to receive praise.

Sab Will said...

Morna, I like your idea to include activities which will appeal to all sorts of learners - visual, kinaesthetic, etc.

Andrew, I'm a fan of humour in class, but as you say, never totally focused on someone who has made a mistake, and it's always so important to quickly show that you are sharing the joke and not just laughing at someone.

Larry, your point about the weaker students' questions actually being the ones that the 'too proud to admit they don't know' ones would like to ask is particularly apposite.

Alban, you already know that I'm a fan of making the lesson enjoyable because I believe that students learn more when they are having fun!

Nicko, now goldfish, I have to say I couldn't choose between your three fav points. They are all so important: 1) Establishing a friendly rapport with the students; 2) Being dynamic in voice and body; 3) Praising and reassuring constantly.

How right you are!

Lesli said...

I agree that sometimes there is the tendency to speak to G2 & G3 as if they are native speakers of English.

It is quite the opposite though. I see there are a few students who probably could move up level and maybe some that could move down (precisely to mix up the groups' a little, so they do not get too comfortable).

That's all the input I have for now.

Lesli Anne

Anonymous said...

Praise, praise and more praise. The 3 pillars of teaching as I see it. Moz

Alex said...

I don't feel qualified to suggest any new ideas yet! I think I'd need to look back after the end of the course...


Anonymous said...

1. Enjoy yourself. Chances are that if you enjoy yourself, your students will enjoy themselves too. And they're more likely to learn (and want to come back) if they're having fun.

2. Use discussions/situations your students can easily relate to. The easier it is for them to imagine themselves actually partaking in the discussion/activity, the greater your chances of them interested and/or learning.

3. Try a few things outside of the box. If you can make a lesson memorable, they'll be more likely to remember it. Funny that.


Jessica said...

I agree with to many of the comments. I think it's so important to enjoy yourself and have fun during a lesson. The teacher's attitude will influence the entire classroom dynamic, so having a positive one is important. A lot of variety and activities add to the fun ambiance of the lesson too. And like Maurice said, lots of praise. Everyone likes to feel good about their efforts to learn a foreign language!


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